The Reason We Are
Every day people wonder about where they came from, their ancestors. We sometimes ask, why am I the way that I am? Some of us even become obsessed with our “family tree.” Well, have you ever wondered about your spiritual family tree? As a Catholic, we often talk of the Communion of Saints, we pray about it every time we say the Creed at mass.

In the movie Amistad (1997), based on a true story, the central character, Cinque, who is on trial, basically for freedom or to be returned to slavery is about to testify. John Quincy Adams, who was brought in as his attorney asks Cinque if he is scared. He tells Adams he is not because he will call upon all his ancestors, and they must come, because, “they are the reason I am.”

So it is with our faith ancestors. We are “the reason they were.” All that they did, all that they believed, has come to us – been gifted to us – from the hands of a loving God.

In The Reason We Are, we will, daily, explore a moment of Church History. I will present to you a description of an event, or maybe a moment in the life of the Catholic Church. Then offer a brief reflection, and a prayer. We will start at the beginning, and work our way up to the present day, a meditative stroll if you will with our spiritual ancestors.

[If you are visiting for the first time, and wish to go back to the beginning, simply scroll down. Dates as they are known will be provided for historical reference.]

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For the next 36 Days, THE REASON WE ARE is going to take a little detour. We are going to go on a "trip" and visit with some of our Faith Ancestors. Did you know that there are 36 DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH; learned men and women who have made significant contributions to the make up of the Catholic Church. So, for the next 36 days I will be taking you back to visit awhile with all these amazing people. Everyday, I will share with you a piece of their story, then offer a reflection, a thought straight from them, and then a prayer. You will see that we will make our visits according to the order of their birth. If you miss one, simply scroll down. It is my desire that you will be inspired by the faith of these amazing individuals.

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ST. JEROME (345 - 420)
St. Jerome, who is best known for translating the Bible into Latin, the Vulgate, was a contemporary of St. Augustine. (Oddly they were born 10 years apart, and died 10 years apart.) St. Jerome primarily lived a life of asceticism, preferring the solitude of the monastery to the hustle and bustle of ecclesiastical politics. He did however spend a good portion of his years in Rome. He developed a very strong friendship with St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also a Doctor of the Church. When it came to understanding Scripture and explaining it, St. Jerome had very few to rival him. In addition to his translation of Scripture into the Latin, he also translated the homilies of Origen, which shed light on the depth of Jerome’s knowledge of the Sacred texts.
(See St. Jerome’s full story at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08341a.htm )
I am going to share several of his thoughts with you, for each speaks to ways that we can grow deeper in our relationship with God:
 “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

“When we pray, we speak to God.
When we read, God speaks to us.”
 And my favorite…
 “It is our part to seek
His to grant what we ask
Ours to make a beginning,
His to bring it to completion;
Ours to offer what we can,
His to finish what we cannot.”
 And we shall end with a prayer of St. Jerome’s…

Oh Lord, you have given us your Word as a light to shine upon our path.
Grant us so to meditate on that word, and follow its teaching
That we may find in it the light that shines
More and more until the perfect day. Amen.

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The name Chrysostom is a title, not a place or a family name. It means, “golden mouthed.” John, from the moment he could talk, did so with eloquence. His father died when he was very young. Certainly John’s path was set by his mother, who at the time of his father’s death was but twenty years old, pious, intelligent, and full of character. She made the decision to sacrifice everything to send John to the finest schools in Antioch, the place of John’s birth. (Gee, sounds like what most Catholic families do best, sacrifice so that their children can be formed properly in understanding and in faith.)
St. John would go on to become a lector, a monk, then deacon and priest, and though he did not ask for it, eventually became the Bishop of Constantinople. His greatest works, and probably how he came to be a Doctor of the Church were his ability to negotiate conflicts – between people, rulers, and even within Church politics. And he is best recognized from a faith perspective in his complete understanding of the Scriptures, of which he preached most often. As a dogmatic theologian there were few who could rival him. Augustine of Hippo, who the Catholic Church considers as among the greatest, referred to St. John Chrysostom on more than one occasion. St. John is invoked by both the Latin Church and the Eastern Orthodox (of which he is the primary reference).
His full bio in New Advent is worth the read: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm
 “Let us give thanks to God continually. For, it is outrageous that when we enjoy His benefaction to us in deed every single day, we do not acknowledge the favor with so much as a word; and this, when the acknowledgment confers great benefit on us. He does not need anything of ours, but we stand in need of all things from Him.
In point of fact, thanksgiving adds nothing to Him, but it brings us closer to Him. For if, when we recall the benefactions of men, we are the more warmed by affection for them; much more, when we continually bring to mind the benefits of the Master towards us, shall we be more earnest with regard to His commandments.
For this cause Paul also said, Be ye thankful. For the best preservative of any benefaction is the remembrance of the benefaction, and a continual thanksgiving for it.”
We pray…
As St. John Chrysostom urges…
Thank you, oh God
You need nothing of me
I need everything of you
Let not a moment of thought cross my mind
Or my heart, without “Thanks be to God” upon my lips.

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ST. AMBROSE (340 - 397)
When the church decided to designate certain individuals because of their significant influence on the life and the growth of the Catholic Church, St. Ambrose was among the first 4 chosen (Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great the other three).
 St. Ambrose was so influential in the life of the Church, three cities claimed to have been the place of his birth. Even St. Augustine wanted Ambrose’s biography rewritten because as he claimed, “was not sufficient enough for a man of his influence.” St. Ambrose’s early life was influenced by his sister (10 years older) who became a nun, and his mother who was deeply devoted to the Christian faith. His father was prefect of Gallia (at the time, next to Rome, the greatest province in the Roman Empire covering France, Spain, and Britain). The legend is that when the ancient chair of St. Barnabas became open at the exile of Bishop Dionysius, and Arians and Cappadocians were fighting over the seat, Ambrose was called to mediate, and an infant was heard to cry out, “Ambrose Bishop.” The assembly elected him, and he went on to become the model of the Christian Bishop.
To get a good picture of what kind of person he was, just pay attention to this line from his biography in New Advent, “In all probability the Greek Schism would not have taken place had East and West continued to converse as intimately as did St. Ambrose and St. Basil.” From what I have read, Ambrose appears to have been everything that St. Paul called for when he urged us to “put on the cloak of Christ.” Read St. Ambrose entire biography at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01383c.htm

The following is taken from a homily given by St. Ambrose:

“Father, if possible, take away this cup from me." Many cling to this text in order to use the sadness of the Savior as proof that he had weakness from the beginning rather than taking it on for a time. In this way they distort the natural meaning of the sentence. I, however, consider it not only as something that does not need to be excused, but nowhere else do I admire more his tender love and majesty. He would have given me less, had he not taken on my emotions. Thus he suffered affliction for me, he who did not have to suffer anything for himself. Setting aside the enjoyment of his divinity, he is afflicted with the annoyance of my weakness. He took on my sadness so that he might bestow on me his joy. He descended into the anguish of death by following in our footsteps so that he might call us back to life by following in his footsteps. I do not hesitate to speak of sadness since I am preaching the cross; he took on not the appearance but the reality of the Incarnation. Thus, instead of avoiding it, he had to take on the pain in order to overcome sadness.”
 And we pray…
Loving God,
Your Son became as one of us to show us the WAY to live as You called for us to live.
Fill me with the Spirit to live as He lived, to love as He loved, and to one day die into Your loving arms. Amen.



One of the Three Cappadocians as they were called (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazaianzus), battled successfully – most of the time – the greatest heresy of their age, or any age for that matter, Arianism. If you do not know, Arianism taught that Jesus was of God, but not God. Jesus, according to Arianism was created by God, but was not consubstantial with God, thus it denied the triune nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Three Cappadocians, of which Gregory of Nazianzus was one, were three of the most fervent opponents of Arianism. St. Gregory of Nazianzus was so fervent just in his demeanor and spirit, that when he was named Bishop of Constantinople, Arianism which was dominating the Church of the East at the time, practically disappeared. Gregory’s orations on the Trinity were so powerful that he attracted Arians back to orthodoxy. St. Jerome was a pupil of St. Gregory. As I am taking these “walks” along with you of our Faith Ancestors, I am overwhelmed by their level of faith and determination. We should be so filled. Read St. Gregory’s full story at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm 

“Human beings have accumulated in their coffers gold and silver, clothes more sumptuous than useful, diamonds and other objects that are evidence of war and tyranny; then a foolish arrogance hardens their hearts; for their brothers in distress, no pity. What utter blindness! . . . Attend not to the law of the strong but to the law of the Creator. Help nature to the best of your ability, honor the freedom of creation, protect your species from dishonor, come to its aids in sickness, rescue it from poverty …. Seek to distinguish yourself from others only in your generosity. Be like gods to the poor, imitating God’s mercy. Humanity has nothing so much in common with God as the ability to do good.”                                                                            
– St. Gregory of Nazianzus, On Love of the Poor
Just a true in this age as it was in St. Gregory’s. This is what we are called to by God, and our prayer is thus…
Oh God, Fill us with your Spirt that we like St. Gregory before us might honor creation and imitate your mercy to all we meet.


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ST. BASIL THE GREAT (330 - 379)

As I was researching the life of St. Basil, I was moved by one particular aspect of his incredible life. He accomplished most of his "ministry" - a deep understanding of everything that Jesus called for us to be, especially the love your neighbor thing - before he was ordained to the episcopate. He was a layman at the time, ordained later in his life. So, maybe we can do "priestly things" without being a priest. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes, and read St. Basil's full story at the New Advent web site: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02330b.htm

Here is a brief summary from that site:

Basil had shown a marked interest in the poor and afflicted; that interest now displayed itself in the erection of a magnificent institution, the Ptochoptopheion, or Basileiad, a house for the care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the industrial training of the unskilled. Built in the suburbs, it attained such importance as to become practically the centre of a new city with the name of he kaine polis or "Newtown". It was the motherhouse of like institutions erected in other dioceses and stood as a constant reminder to the rich of their privilege of spending wealth in a truly Christian way. It may be mentioned here that the social obligations of the wealthy were so plainly and forcibly preached by St. Basil that modern sociologists have ventured to claim him as one of their own, though with no more foundation than would exist in the case of any other consistent teacher of the principles of Catholic ethics. The truth is that St. Basil was a practical lover of Christian poverty, and even in his exalted position preserved that simplicity in food and clothing and that austerity of life for which he had been remarked at his first renunciation of the world.

“He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” St. Basil

Loving God…
In the Story of St. Basil I see Jesus’ primary call
To love one another, as You love us.
Why is that so difficult for us to do
Fill our hearts, set fire to our souls
That we, as St. Basil before us
Do all we can to raise those who are most in need
Of Your Love.


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Today’s stroll with one of our faith ancestors, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, doesn't provide much information on his life. But what we know of his writing is very moving. As I was reading his full biography on New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia, I was touched by how today’s “creed” bears the same spirit as that of the very beginning. I know, it is supposed to be that way, right. But the way we want to change things to fit the times, can’t change the core of what we know to be true.
 Little is known of the early life of St. Cyril. We know he was born in or around 315. Some put his death at 378, others at 387. Most of what we know comes through his extant (still in existence) writings. And the piece of his writing I wish to share with you is his creed – written before the Council of Nicea…

 St. Cyril's doctrine is expressed in his creed, which seems to have run thus:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten by the Father true God before all ages, God of God, Life of Life, Light of Light, by Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified . . . and buried. He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and sat at the right hand of the Father. And He cometh in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And in one Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, Who spake by the prophets; and in one baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and in one holy Catholic Church, and in the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting.
(taken from the New Advent Biography: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm )
 I urge you, if you have a moment to click on the full biography, and read, at the end, his explanation of the Blessed Sacrament. It will move you. And the following thought from one of his lectures shall be our prayer today…
 “Let us then, my brethren, endure in hope. Let us devote ourselves, side-by-side with our hoping, so that the God of all the universe, as he beholds our intention, may cleanse us from all sins, fill us with high hopes from what we have in hand, and grant us the change of heart that saves. God has called you, and you have your calling.”

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Today’s “walk” with our faith ancestors takes us to the see of Poiters. (In case you were not aware anyone who is bishop of a location, the area of that bishop’s influence is referred to as a SEE.) St. Hilary of Poiters, another of the early Church Fathers, and of course Doctor of the Church, lived in what I am beginning to think might have been the most important time in Church History. He was born in Poiters at the beginning of the fourth century; died there 1 November, according to the most accredited opinion, or according to the Roman Breviary, on 13 January, 368. Belonging to a noble and very probably pagan family, he was instructed in all the branches of profane learning, but, having also taken up the study of Holy Scripture and finding there the truth which he sought so ardently, he renounced idolatry and was baptized. I say most important time in Church History because by this time, all the Apostles, and many of those who immediately followed the Apostles were no longer alive. Did they do their evangelizing, as Jesus wanted it done? Was the Holy Spirit truly alive?
In St. Hilary’s case, they must have. For he battled heresy, particularly the Arian Heresy, like no other, and it appears as though Hilary and the Holy Spirit prevailed. (See his complete biography at:

“The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you.”
 And this should be our prayer…
My thoughts, my words, my actions, oh God
Fall so short of your Glory.
Nothing I say, or think, or do can compare to Yours
So, I pray, that all I say, or do, or think
Be worthy in Your sight. Amen

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SAINT EPHRAEM (306 - 373)

Born at Nisibis, then under Roman rule, early in the fourth century; died June, 373. The name of his father is unknown, but he was a pagan and a priest of the goddess Abnil or Abizal. His mother was a native of Amid. Ephraem was instructed in the Christian mysteries by St. James, the famous Bishop of Nisibis, and was baptized at the age of eighteen (or twenty-eight). Thenceforth he became more intimate with the holy bishop, who availed himself of the services of Ephraem to renew the moral life of the citizens of Nisibis, especially during the sieges of 338, 346, and 350. One of his biographers relates that on a certain occasion he cursed from the city walls the Persian hosts, whereupon a cloud of flies and mosquitoes settled on the army of Sapor II and compelled it to withdraw. But as the Church is concerned, and I would guess why he qualified as a Doctor of the Church, St. Ephraem is responsible for provided a comprehensive commentary on every book of the Old and the New Testaments. He was considered one of the preeminent theologians of his day.
To read  Saint Ephraem's full biography, go to:
 I found the following quote of his to be more than suitable for reflection:
 “Virtues are formed by prayer
Prayer preserves temperance
Prayer suppresses anger
Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy
Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit
And raises man to heaven.”
 So I am thinking maybe we should pray…
 Loving, compassionate, forgiving God
To you I turn, in times of
Joy, happiness, trial, and sadness
Allow my daily prayer to take me to your side
Wrap me in your embrace
Walk with me, that all I do shows to the world
The glory of your love. Amen

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Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; died 2 May, 373. Athanasius was the greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished ever since. Athanasius was one of those rare personalities that derive incomparably more from their own native gifts of intellect and character than from the fortuitousness of descent or environment. His career almost personifies a crisis in the history of Christianity; and he may be said rather to have shaped the events in which he took part than to have been shaped by them. The legend goes, that as a young boy, Athanasius was caught “baptizing” several of his friends. He was spotted by Alexander the Bishop of Alexandria, and when Athanasius and the other boys were questioned. Alexander determined that the baptism was valid, and he immediately welcomed Athanasius into clerical training. And the rest as they say, is history. Athanasius went on to follow Alexander as the next Bishop, and through Athanasius’ writings distinguished himself as one of the most learned of Church scholars of his time. Athanasius fought vehemently against the Arian heresy (which claimed that Jesus was just a man, no divinity). – See full biography at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02035a.htm

“The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.”
Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation   
FOR REFLECTION: Sit quietly, close your eyes. Allow your spirit to visit with Saint Athanasius. Here the words he spoke. Ask Jesus to heal any bit of brokenness that may be dwelling in you. As Saint Athanasius said, Jesus did not come to dazzle, but to put himself at our disposal, to be there whenever we find ourselves in need.

And we pray...

(adapted from a thought of St. Athanasius)
Loving God,
You chose to become as one of us
Sending Jesus Your Son
To reveal to us the Divine Life
Give us the strength to follow in his steps
And to one day live eternally with you.


100 YEARS of Struggle

(circa 200a.d. – 300a.d.)

The time period roughly between 200 and 300 a.d. was a time of great upheaval in the Church. It was a time of constant questioning, and constant persecution. Was Jesus, God? Is there a Trinity? Is the Eucharist real or just symbolic? Almost all of the Roman Emperors, except for Alexander Severus (222a.d.) who was a Christian but believed also in the Roman mythology, persecuted Christians and their leaders. Heresy abounded: Monarchians who claimed Jesus is God, but separate from the Father, Sabellius, a priest, who taught Jesus did not exist before the Incarnation, Montanists, who were Christians, but just believed it was the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit that mattered.

But through all of this, as we know, the Church remained steadfast and faithful. And much good emerged: Monasticism was established by St. Anthony in 250a.d.

For Reflection: Just as the early Church struggled, we too struggle in our Faith. Let us pray for the same steadfastness that carried the Church.

Loving God,

If I should fall, lift me up

If I should doubt, enlighten me. Amen

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The Foundation: 4 Gospels Plus (circa 140)

No, the New Testament did not drop form the sky, nor was it discovered in a cave as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It developed over time, from an “oral tradition.” Jesus had such an impact, that the story spread. And because it was OF GOD, it was sustained, it did not fade away.

Thomas was one of the first Apostles to actually begin to write down things. If you wish to look at the Gospel of Thomas, you can go to: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html. But it was around 140, when Marcion, who was deemed to be a heretic, established a canon of Luke’s Gospel along with the writings of Paul, that the authority of the Church began to explore a setting of the Foundation of the New Testament. The document that we have today dates to what is called the Muratorian Canon. It is a work from 170 a.d. that contains Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 13 Pauline Letters, 1 and 2 John and Revelation. (Hebrews and Peter would be added some thirty years later.)

For Reflection: Reflect on the ways that you are inspired daily, just as those who put together the Canon of Scripture must have been inspired.

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He Named Us                                                                                                               
(St. Ignatius of Antioch 50 a.d – approx. 115a.d)

There is a legend that Jesus held the babe Ignatius in his arms, Mark 9:35. But that would have him born before 50 a.d. who knows. What we do know, and is a matter of historical record, is that Ignatius was consecrated as Bishop of Antioch by St. Peter himself. Another thing that we are practically certain of is that Ignatius named us – he called us CATHOLIC (from the Greek kathos and holos, to “welcome all”).

The story goes, that as Ignatius was traveling from Antioch to Rome to be executed, at every stop along the way he was welcomed graciously by all the Christians, who of course were keeping themselves hidden for fear of persecution. But, they risked their own lives to welcome Ignatius. So, he proclaimed them to all be katholos. Thus, to this day we call ourselves Catholic.  So we pray…


Take a moment and ask yourself, how well do you wear the name CATHOLIC?

Mighty God Father of All,

Compassionate God Mother of All

Strengthen my spirit that I may never fear to

Be Catholic, Speak Catholic, Act Catholic, Love Catholic. Amen.

The Same Since 100 a.d.

For today’s glance back at The Reason We Are, we see that the Order Of The Mass, has remained basically the same since it was formulated by St. Justin Martyr, and St. Clement of Rome roughly around 100 a.d. It was shaped and named “leitourgia” the Greek word meaning Liturgy, and its basic function has never been drastically changed: The Word, or teaching, and the Eucharist.

FOR REFLECTION: The next time you go to mass, put yourself in the homes, and in the catacombs of the early Christians, who faced death for the love of the MASS.

Loving God,

Never may we take your Holy Sacrifice for granted                                                        
Never may we waver in our love for its grace.


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To Give One’s Life: St. James the Great                                                                          (circa 44 a.d.)

In today’s “The Reason We Are,” we take a glance at the life of St. James the Great, brother of John, and the First Apostle to give up his life for the faith. St. James was among the first three whom Jesus chose. Peter, James, and John can be found at all the significant moments of Jesus’ ministry (e.g. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, The Transfiguration, The Agony in the Garden, etc.). If you have the time and the curiosity, read about St. James life at the following link: The Life of St. James the Great
Also if it peaks your interest, take a moment and read about the pilgrimage which is inspired by the life of St. James, the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James

Let us pray:

Through an understanding of the Life of St. James
May we come to realize that the faith we have in you, oh God
Should and must be the driving force of our lives.
Give us to spirit we need to keep that faith
Ever burning within our hearts.

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The 13th Apostle

Saul of Tarsus (b.k.a. St. Paul)

 If the Resurrection is our Salvation, and Pentecost, thanks to the Holy Spirit, is our Birthday, then Saul of Tarsus (better known as St. Paul, the Apostle) is our conscience. God’s deliberate effort to knock Saul “off his high horse” (see the story Acts 9) truly set the Church in motion. For, without Paul’s letters, and the work of Cornelius – who we will look at tomorrow – the Church might have remained confined to a sect of Judaism, rather than a breathing, growing, life of God in the world.

 A Reflection on St. Paul:
It probably stands as St. Paul’s most remembered words, and it is probably a bit cliché, but for me it still has the pull that tugs at my spirit and soul. For your reflection read the whole two Chapters,
1 Corinthians 13 & 14, Scripture scholars call it “The Way of Love.” Give it a chance swirl around in your heart. Imagine that you are in a pen-pal with Paul, and he wrote this to you…
 My dear Child of God,
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing… (from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians)

A Prayer on the Spirit of St. Paul,

 Mighty God, Compassionate God,

As you called upon Saul to carry Your message of LOVE

Do so with me! Remove my blindness

Let me see the good, and the glory of all your creation

Let me not turn my back on any in need

Strengthen me to be a living, breathing, instrument of your LOVE. Amen

(The ministry of St. Paul started in 35 a.d. at the time of his conversion, and ran until 67 a.d. the known time of his death.)


The Resurrection
(circa 29 or 30 or thereabouts)

The birth of the Church (Pentecost) would not have occurred had Jesus been anything other than his proclamation as the Son of God. Below you will find several of the post Resurrection appearances. Pick one and as you read imagine you are actually there.
John 20: 11-18
Luke 24: 13-35
Mark 16: 14-18
John 21 (my favorite)

A Text to Jesus: Thnx 4 breaking the bonds of death. For freeing my soul to live as you lived.

This daily look back upon all the people, places and events which shaped our faith will begin on Monday June 26, 2017